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The Ribbon - Care for Caregivers
Volume 5, Issue 24
November 25, 2001

www.TheRibbon.com
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Nashville, TN  37217-1918

I'm trusting that everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  I hope your bellies are full and you don't have too many leftovers to deal with.

Here at my house we had a few newcomers arrive.  Kiki, my female dog, decided to give birth to 4 puppies on Thanksgiving Day.  Nick, my husband, made a great midwife while I was the one going back and forth from the kitchen to cook and then to the whelping box to check on Kiki.  The grandchildren were thrilled to be able to take a peek at brand new puppies.  It was a really blessed day.

Just think, now it's only a month until Christmas.  Where did this year go?  I'm just not prepared this year.  I hadn't done any shopping. I'm not able to get out and run as much since we have moved Nanny in.  I solved that by going online this weekend and getting a lot of it done.  It really took a load of stress off my shoulders.  Now I just have to worry that it will all get here in time.  You know, I just have to have something to worry about.  (smile)


Maintaining Energy, Vitality, and Spirituality
by Mary C. Fridley RN, C

Caregivers are a unique group of people. They come in all shapes, sizes, races, and religions.  What sets them apart is their resourcefulness in time of need, stamina in time of exhaustion, strength in time of weakness, and perseverance in time of futility.  This makes caregivers sound like super heroes.  Lord knows they wish they were but they're not.  To maintain the pace needed, especially now with the holidays upon us, caregivers must nurture their bodies, minds, and spirits.  These three elements of health make us uniquely human and cannot be separated, for to neglect one disrupts the others and a state of ill-health results. By maintaining their energy, vitality, and spirituality caregivers can stay healthy and in balance even during this hectic time.  Here are a few tips:

  • Forget the health food.
  • "I need all the preservatives I can get."  Sound familiar? But there's no two ways about it; good nutrition is fuel for energy.  It helps maintain overall health and stamina for those endless days and nights.  Rules of good nutrition include 4-5 servings each of fruits and vegetables a day.  I know it sounds impossible to get that much in one day, but one serving is usually ½ cup.  So double up and get two servings at once!  Limit red meat and increase your consumption of fish to twice a week.  Watch that cholesterol: no more than 300mg. a day.  Drink plenty of fluids, especially water: 6-8 cups a day.  Dehydration causes fatigue and irritability.  Lord knows you have enough reasons to feel tired and irritable… so drink.  If you really dislike plain water, mix it with half juice or lemonade.  Put it in a sport bottle and carry it around, sipping frequently.

     

  • Oh, no!  Not the big "E".
  • Yes, I'm sorry to say that exercise is important (for you politically correct minded people, the new preferred term is "physical activity").  Think of it as combustion for fuel to produce energy. It also improves mood; helps to maintain (or lose) weight; and do wonders for the cardiovascular system.  Consistent exercise can increase your endurance: people will call you the "Energizer Bunny".  Walking is an excellent exercise because it's both aerobic (good for your heart) and weight bearing (good for your bones).  It also clears the mind.  There is nothing like a brisk walk on a crisp day to make you appreciate God's good works.  Exercising daily is best, but three times a week is good, too.  Now, don't think you have to run ten miles or sweat buckets to reap the benefits.  Thirty minutes 3 times a week of sustained exercise, or, ten minutes 3 times a day 3 times a week will do the trick. Don't forget to stretch: gently s-t-r-e-a-c-h  those joints and muscles to keep them limber and toned.

     

  • "Insanity is my only means of relaxation".
  • Ah, yes, to relax: just soak in a hot tub, or daydream.  Relaxation is the reward for hard work.  It's the tonic that soothes those aching muscles, quiets the mind, and allows you to get in touch with your soul.  It's not a luxury to be experienced occasionally; it's a necessity to be experienced frequently.  You owe it to yourself and your family to take time to relax.  Do some soul searching, retreat into a good book, or just contemplate the wonders of nature.  Relaxation is essential for keeping the engine going. No amount of fuel or combustion will start the engine if it's worn out.

     

  • "When you love yourself, you give glory to God." --Fr. Joe Breighner
  • To love yourself you must first like yourself.  We all have something we dislike about ourselves.  It's too bad we aren't perfect, but that's what makes us human.  So get over it!  Stop beating yourself up.  It's time to let go of self-recriminations and use your energy for better things.  Recognize your achievements; write them down; pat yourself on the back and celebrate small accomplishments that no one else sees.

     

  • "Keep the faith, baby..."
  • Create space to nurture your spirit.  Practice silence in prayer or meditation.  Keep the faith with three attitudes for living:

    1. Acceptance.  Take one day and one hour at a time.  Accepting what is happening on a spiritual level will increase tolerance and peace of mind.
    2. Resignation but not passivity.  Resignation that you are not alone.  God is with you on your journey.
    3. Conformity to faith to help answer the unanswered, hope to see a better day, and trust in God.

Listen for God's presence and know that you don't walk alone. Feel His warmth and vitality throughout your soul.  The spirit of God is constant; just take the time to experience it.  Be quiet in the moment and you will see.  God Bless.


Mary is a registered nurse certified in gerontology with more than twenty years in the geriatric health field. She is the owner of Gero-Resources specializing in caregiver, eldercare, and successful aging education.  She provides staff and community education as well as motivational speaking engagements.  Mary is also an author of two caregiver advice columns and contributes articles to various websites.  She will be happy to answer your questions or concerns while maintaining your anonymity.  She can be reached at Gero-Resources, P.O. Box 4743, Crofton, MD 21114 or at geroresources@hotmail.com.


Coping with Holidays as a Caregiver
by Brenda Race

We all know that Holidays can be a very stressful time just in living an ordinary family life. There is much confusion with the hustle and bustle of preparing for extra company, fixing special meals and playing the hostess while trying to also enjoy the whole experience ourselves. For the caregiver this time can add a whole new set of stresses to an already stressful situation. I think that one of the most important points we should remember as role of the caregiver in this situation is to try to maintain a sense of familiarity for the one we are caring for. Confusion and unfamiliar changes often bring out the worst in all of us and that much more so in a person who has a handicap. With this in mind there are some tips which may help make the holidays a little more enjoyable for all involved.

Try to include the person to whom you are the caregiver for in some of the activities in preparing for the holidays. If there is something they are capable of helping with, then give them a small job of doing so. It makes them feel like they are being useful and at the same time will help you to occupy them while you are also accomplishing something. I remember so well having my mom peel the potatoes for me. She enjoyed doing it so much that she peeled 10 pounds before I stopped her. She was happy so I let her go! With the holidays comes decorating.... try to minimize the amount of clutter which this may add. For example: If it is The Christmas season and you feel you must add some boxes beneath the tree, place only a few directly under the tree....there's no need to spread them out so that they fill half the living room. This would only create a hazard for the one you are caring for by tripping them up or confusing them. OneChristmas my mom felt the need to rearrange all of the gifts.... We are still missing a few but we learned from the experience to be selective in how we placed them. With all of the extra decorating comes the use of extra electrical cords....be sure to secure all extra cords so that they are not a hazard.... Try to run them along the outside walls where they are not so visible to the eye. Try to maintain basically the same furniture floor pattern. For someone who may be a little confused at times or has a problem moving about, moving the furniture may totally throw them off and lead to more confusion and agitation or a possible accident. Do not place poisonous plants, such as Poinsettias, out for display. A beautiful display of artificial flowers would be a safer way of making a room colorful. Try to schedule the major activities for the day early in the day. We know that as the day wears on we all tend to become tired under normal conditions. For someone who is struggling to find their place in an already confusing world, the stress and agitation increases as the day goes on. Saving a time of sitting and quietly visiting towards the end of the day would benefit all concerned. Talking of past holiday customs and recipes may be enjoyable and less tiring after a long day. Try to limit the number of guests so that theamount of confusion is lessened. Keep in mind that the more noise that is present; the more confusion will be evident. If your holiday activities are planned well in advance, each guest should also be made aware of the emotional state of the one you are caring for. You could even send them material to read giving them an overview of the specific problem if they are unaware of what it entails. Always try to make the patient feel secure and protected. With guests in and out of the house be sure that someone is aware at all times of where they are. If they tend to wander there is a chance that they may wander off while everyone thinks that everyone else is watching Aunt Mary! It may be a good idea to even assign different ones to take turns keeping him or her in sight and being on hand if they require assistance. If they become agitated or overly tired, try to remove them to a quiet area of the house either with yourself or someone they trust. As caregiver be sure to fit some time in for yourself. If you have the extra people there then use them to your advantage. Take a few minutes sometime during the day to pamper yourself! Place your sister or even your brother in charge of mom or dad or hubby and go run yourself a hot bubble bath or take a 30-minute much needed nap. Something this simple will refresh you and help you to enjoy the holidays that much more too.

Coping with the Holidays as a Caregiver, by Brenda Race
http://www.zarcrom.com/users/yeartorem/articles/copingwithholidays.html


Web Site:
9/12/99 Copyright 1999 Brenda Race
Published in Today's Caregiver, November/December 1999.

POEMS PRAYERS & PROMISES:
http://www.geocities.com/brace03/Mom.html
Library of Poetry - www.poetry.com

Contributing Poet for:
http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/Sauna/9102/writings.html
http://www.zarcrom.com/users/alzheimers/poetry/br/br-index.html
http://www.zarcrom.com/users/yeartorem/ADpoetry/contributed.html

Email: brace@tullahoma.total-web.net


Dear Mom; With Undying Love, Debbie
(Letter # 13) The Final Lesson

by pianomam | Nov 24 '01

The Bottom Line
Never lose sight of the fact that God does have His reasons why we must suffer. You can be sure He will eventually reveal His plan to us!

November 24, 2001

Dear Mom,

It's so hard to believe that your awful journey into the clutches of dementia is finally over for you. You've battled this sickening disease for 5 1/2 years now. None of us could understand why you'd been hanging on for so long, when your body had long since completely betrayed you. There had to be some reason, we were always told. She's hanging on for something! We may never know what it was, they explained; then again, you may be lucky enough to have it become crystal clear!

In August of 2001, five years after your first of many strokes, my sister Sandee and I finally completed the overwhelming task of cleaning out 32 plus years of "stuff" which had been collected in your house, Mom. How does anyone sort through 32 years of someone's belongings, deciding what to save, what to pitch, and what to donate to charity? Would we accidentally throw out something important? How will we ever complete this task?

For five days in a row, we held a yard sale, the view of which was partially obstructed by the 25-foot dumpster we rented for quick disposal of the mounds of trash, ruined furniture, and other items which no longer could serve any recognizable purpose, but were saved because of the grip dementia had on your once-brilliant mind.

After the fifth day, we still had much of the yard covered with your belongings, even though we offered each item for only five cents, hoping someone would find something they could use and not feel that financial restrictions would keep them from taking it home.

We sadly threw much of it into the dumpster, and bagged up what we thought should be donated to Goodwill. The job was finally done.

Meanwhile, your decline in health was now advancing so quickly, and we just begged God each day to take you home, to reunite you with Dad, who went to Heaven 25 years ago. You and I even prayed aloud together a month ago, pleading that God would finally free you from the body which trapped you in misery here on Earth.

Still, you hung on, day by day, no longer able to see, no longer willing to eat anything but ice cream. At times you were even unable to remember those of us who spent our lives loving you. Why were you hanging on, Mom? Was there someone who hadn't given you permission to go? Was there a lesson you still needed to teach us? Some sort of unfinished business, perhaps? We were clueless. Why would our merciful God continue to keep you here on Earth when your life seemed so horrible now?

This past week, as we watched you on your death bed, your breathing became totally mechanical, you no longer had the strength to utter a single word, and your eyes rarely peeked open at us. It was absolutely devastating to watch you like this, Mom.

Then it happened! Sandee got a call from her son's new bride. In July, they had purchased your home of 32 years. Walking out to the mailbox, she made an incredible discovery. It was a Bible, a worn out Bible, but not just ANY Bible. This was YOUR Bible, Mom! There were so many Bibles in your house that we ended up donating various religious books to the Goodwill, after keeping the ones we wanted in the family. This Bible is very worn out, its battered edges making it an easy one to overlook, and it was tossed in the donation pile. How could something so worn out and faded have much value? We tend to feel that way about so many things, don't we, Mom?

Enclosed in the Bible was the following message from the anonymous angel who returned it:

"I bought this Bible at the Goodwill at 70th & Federal. I thought I should bring here."

No name, no return address, nothing. The Goodwill at 70th & Federal is at least a 45-minute drive from your house, Mom! Why would anyone go to that much trouble? They didn't send it through the mail, they drove it all they way to your house, and put it in the mailbox! No one saw a thing.

On Thanksgiving Morning, I woke up very frightened at 2:47am. I couldn't stop worrying about you, Mom. A horrible feeling of dread prevented me from sleeping any longer. I finally got out of bed at 4:00 am, and went downstairs to prepare a birthday present for a beautiful, angelic woman named Millie at the hospice, who I had come to think of as my own angel. She's a resident there, and can't understand why God has not yet taken her to Heaven. Her huge smiles and glowing spirit gave me such comfort as I wandered the halls of the hospice, tears streaming down my face as I watched you cling to life.

I went into my living room to check on a tape of music that I was recording for Millie. I was astonished at how orange the room appeared in this beginning of a new day. I looked outside, and the sky was ablaze in God's glory. They sky appeared to be on fire, its stunning gold, yellow, orange, and pink clouds almost hurt your eyes in stark contrast to a beautiful, blue sky. I knew right then that your day of release had come, Mom! You always did love a beautiful sunrise or sunset.

A few hours after that sunrise, I arrived at the hospice center. I had received a call on the way there, and a hospice nurse sadly informed me that you were looking really bad, and that if I wanted to see you, I'd better hurry!

I arrived only thirty minutes before Sandee, who had flown in that morning from Minnesota. She had been given that Bible by her son as he picked her up at the airport. Sandee brought the Bible to your side, opened it up to the first page she had seen that morning on her way to see you, and read to us the message inscribed on the worn pages, written by YOU, Mom!

You wrote, "Death to this earthly body is a natural fact, as is birth. To not accept it is to fight nature and to risk one's mind going to pieces. But the real self, the soul, the individual identity of each of us is spirit as is God, and is everlasting, whole, holy, wholesome, vital, changeless as is the love of God. Water, ice, steam, are one and the same but taking different form."

And on another page was written, again in your beautiful pre-dementia handwriting:

Life After Death, from Guideposts, by Norman Vincent Peale -

"What is death? Obviously it is a change into some new form of existence. We have allowed ourselves to think of death as a dark door, when actually it is a rainbow bridge spanning the gulf between 2 worlds. When your body becomes unfit as a dwelling place for your spirit, then it or you will leave the unfit body. But YOU will be more alive than ever before! What a pity to worry about something dreaded that MIGHT happen. If it never happens you've never-the-less ruined otherwise happy days worrying. If it does happen, you're too tired from worry to meet the situation to your best ability."

As we held you close to us, Sandee read this aloud again and again throughout the day, always at your bedside, to all the hospice nurses and grieving loved ones of the other hospice residents. I can't even begin to explain the feelings of peace that YOUR writing gave to all of us preparing to say good-bye to you, Mom! You were so quiet and peaceful, lying there listening to Sandee repeatedly sharing your messages with everyone!

Even in your dying hours, you were teaching us the most important lesson you could possibly share with us! You were no longer able to speak with your mouth, but because that angel returned your Bible three months after we'd given it away, and only three days before your passing, you spoke to us through the words you'd written in that precious, battered Bible!

Your breathing was reduced to steady puffs of air exhaled through tired lungs, every three seconds. Your beautiful hands that took such loving care of us were now a deep purplish gray in color. Your heart could now only pump blood into your vital organs, so your extremities were very cool and discolored. It is the surest sign that death is only hours away.

I clung so tightly to those purple hands, Mom. My hands looked so pink in contrast to your hands being deprived of a blood flow, and yet yours were actually warmer than my own hands, frozen in the shocking reality that you would be leaving us soon.

There were seven of us in the room with you when you took your final breath on that Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2001. All three of your children were there, as was your twin sister, one grandson, his new bride, and your daughter-in-law. During the last five minutes of your life, your breathing suddenly changed drastically. No longer were you breathing heavily in mechanical puffs. You were now breathing so quietly.

As we all held you tightly, your eyes suddenly opened. You struggled to say something, but none of us could make it out. I pressed my face against yours, kissed your cool face, looked into your brown eyes, and told you to go see Dad, go see what he's been up to the last 25 years, and give him a big hug for all of us.

With that, you took one final sigh of relief, and that was the beginning of your new life! With tears streaming down my face, I looked at our hands clutching one another tightly. I was astonished to see your hand immediately return to its normal color! It seemed so symbolic that the death of that body had returned your hand to its normal appearance, Mom! You were free at last, and we all rejoiced through our own tears over what you must be seeing, yes SEEING after years of blindness!

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mom. We shall never forget the lessons you have taught us, especially the lessons you brought to us in your final hours. Thank you for hanging on until that angel returned your Bible into our hands once again!

With undying love,
Debbie

This is the thirteenth in a series of letters I have written to Mom, documenting her journey through dementia. I pray that these letters will reach out to others who are losing a loved one, offering them hope for the future!


Bringing Joy to Mother
by Mary Emma Allen

So many people comment, "How awful!" when they learn my mom had Alzheimer's.  I accept their sympathy, but then try to tell them there were many situations that could have been worse.  They look at me dumbfounded.

They don't understand that, because this was something I couldn't change, couldn't prevent, why not find pleasure in caring for Mother and bringing her joy.  Such simple events bring a smile to the lips of an Alzheimer's patient.

I've been rewarded for caring for Mother by having memories of tea parties with her and her great grandchildren, of sitting quietly beside her bed and reading or writing, watching her smile and nod to the rhythm of music at a New Year's party, looking at her face brighten when children hunt for eggs at an Easter party.

Yes, there were frustrations, regrets, bittersweet memories.  However, there are memories of a lady who accepted with grace the direction of her life.  In her Alzheimer's state she brought smiles to her family and caregivers and taught us that life has value even though it might not be exactly as we would wish.


(c)2001 Mary Emma Allen

Mary Emma Allen has chronicled her mother's journey through Alzheimer's in the book, "When We Become the Parent to Our Parents."  Her stories also appear in "Finding the Joy in Alzheimer's," by Brenda Avadian and published by North Star Books.  She also talks to groups about Alzheimer's.

Visit her web site:
http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea;
mailto:me.allen@juno.com


In Passing: Those We Must Remember

From PHOTOLJT
Dated 11-20-01

It is with great sadness that I write this evening.  Our very own host, Teen, has lost her friend, Nancy, this morning.  Nancy was ill for over 4 years and Teen has taken care of Nancy all of this time.  I just got off the telephone with Teen.  She is holding up well during this difficult time; all the while supporting Nancy's family.  I hope you will join with me in extending our deepest sympathies and thoughts to Teen and Nancy's family.

It has been requested that if any one would like to make a donation in Nancy Kinsey's honor, it be done to the Southeast Tennessee Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association; 735 Broad Street, Suite 300; Chattanooga, TN 37402.  The acknowledgment card should be sent to Teen Shattuck. Please feel free to email me for Teen's snail mail address.

Love Always,
Linda

The Gathering Place
Online Alzheimer's Caregiver Support
http://www.theribbon.com/GatherPlace/
Contributor to Finding the Joys in Alzheimer's (page 76)


We must let you know that PianoMam lost her mother on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 2001. Her words were "my mother just broke free from 5 1/2 years of dementia on Thanksgiving Day! She is finally reunited with my Dad, up in Heaven." Please join us in extending your sympathies to Debbie and her family.

Debbie has written a beautiful letter to her mother which is included in this issue. Please take the time to read it. You will be truly blessed.


Links

PET scans reliable in detecting Alzheimer's

by JANE E. ALLEN
Los Angeles Times
Doctors and patients have long needed a way to diagnose Alzheimer's disease when memories first fail and speech falters. Now a screening technique that had looked promising has been shown to be highly reliable.

New research from the University of California, Los Angeles, and seven other academic centers confirms that PET scans of the brain not only can diagnose Alzheimer's in its earliest stages, but they also can predict which patients' memory problems will develop into Alzheimer's or related types of dementia.

Read the Full Article here: HoustonChronicle.com
www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/health/1133129#top


Alzheimer's, Women and Estrogens

Summarized by Robert W. Griffith, MD,
It's now generally accepted that women who take estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) after menopause have a slightly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's. Whether estrogen treatment can benefit women who have acquired the disease is less certain. Some studies have suggested that it can, others have shown no benefit. A new study has now been reported comparing an estrogen skin patch with a dummy patch (placebo) in women with Alzheimer's, using a test battery measuring possible effects on memory and attention. The results are encouraging.

Read the Full Article Here:Alzheimer's, Women and Estrogens - HealthandAge


From jleehawaii@aol.com

AN EARLY IDENTIFICATION RESOURCE KIT

A national survey reports that most people do not seek help for Alzheimer's disease as early as they should. On average, more than a year passes from the time the signs appear and the first visit to a physician. The survey suggests a lack of awareness about signs and symptoms, methods of detection, and treatments.

In response to these findings, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, the National Family Caregivers Association, and ABC television personality Linda Dano have developed a public education program called "ID.A.D." (IDentify Alzheimer's Disease). "ID.A.D." provides information to help detect Alzheimer's disease and resources to help caregivers prepare for changing roles and responsibilities.

For a free "ID.A.D." Resource Kit, call toll-free (877) 439-3566
NOVEMBER


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Hugs and Peace,
Jamie and Karen

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